Friday, October 10, 2003

Good morning!

Before I finish the movie list below, and begin comics reviews for this week, I'd like to make a comment or two about one of the many topics that have making the rounds in the comics blogosphereiverse lately: John Byrne's typically shortsighted and disingenuous comment (and no, this isn't a quote, just my interpretation) that because he feels that superheroes and superhero comics should maintain the sort of innocence they had over thirty years ago, then books like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns should never have happened. He attempts to establish a label of "all ages" books versus "books for all ages". Jim Henley has crafted a deservedly celebrated response which I wish he had posted on Byrne's board, just to see the reaction.

I can understand that lots of people are uncomfortable with any sort of presumably "mature" content, no matter how slight (one of the posters on Byrne's message board relays the eyebrow-raising story of a minister who was shocked and disgusted by the sexual content in an Eighties issue of Green fricking Arrow, for Chrissakes!), but to expect the medium to remain, intellectually, at the reading level of the average ten year old is self-defeating and limiting, to say the least. To me, the inherent preposterousness of, for example, a young man being bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining spider-like powers rather than dying of radiation poisoning is an obstacle for the good writer or artist to overcome, rather than a ironclad, inviolable convention which must remain unquestioned. That being said, I think intent is important here as well...I myself was offended, recently, by a story arc in (again! Hmm...) Green Arrow, by Kevin Smith, in which the innocuous 60s DC humor characters Stanley and His Monster were shoehorned into a convoluted storyline that attempts to explain how GA returned from the dead, and gave us the lovely sight of teenage Stanley, imprisoned in a mystic bubble and being forced by his Uncle to drink the blood of murdered children in an attempt to control his Monster, now set up as a demon from Hell (we have Phil Foglio, of all people, to thank for that). I saw this as a cynical trashing of simple characters from a more innocent time, based on the reasoning that "nobody gives a shit about Stanley and his Monster anyway, so what the hell". The upshot of all this is that I know where Byrne and his message board sycophants are coming from- they have the same conviction about all superhero characters that I had for poor Stanley and his Monster. But that doesn't mean I agree. I want to see characters I read grow and develop, and am always interested in what talented creators can do with the conventions of the comics world as we know it now. If their intent is mean-spirited or cynical, well, that's OK too, but please don't make it gratuitously so. It's a fine line, and many people are unwilling or unable to make this distinction. They want to remain 15 years old every time they crack a new comic, and it's just sad.

One other thing- I wonder if Byrne is so dismissive of Watchmen because he began his career at Charlton?

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